How to bounce back after a bad experience coming out to someone

If you have gone through the coming out process or you’re still in it, you will most likely have a variety of experiences coming out to the people in your life. Some will be immediately accepting, some will be neutral, and some might be downright hostile.

The most important thing to know here is that all of these reactions are not about you–they are about the person who is reacting to your coming out story. The person is thinking about how your news affects them, and how your relationship might change because of this. They may be worried about you. They may wonder why they didn’t know this about you sooner. Or they may simply be envious of your newfound honesty.

You may be surprised at certain people’s reactions to your coming out story. People who you thought would be supportive may need time to process this news, and so they may not be initially as supportive as you like. You might find support in unlikely places. You might be surprised, and have others come out to you in turn! All of these things have happened to me in my coming out process, so I know that they are possible.

One friend I came out to was just unable to process that I was gay. I had been married twice! To men! Surely, I was simply bisexual or bored with my marriage. Was this a phase I was going through? A mid-life crisis? I was floored. Someone who I thought would be supportive had to deal with their own feelings first before they could be a real friend to me in my process.

But how do you bounce back after a bad experience coming out to someone? Here are some tips if and when this happens to you:

  1. Remember that your job is simply to come out: You don’t have to play therapist to someone else or spend time defending or explaining your process. Just say the words and let the other person deal with their feelings about it.
  2. Take a time out: It’s always acceptable to take a time out from that person or situation. Let them have time to integrate this new reality–that may be just what they need in order to pick up the relationship again. Time is the great healer in so many ways!
  3. Don’t let it set you back: Regardless of what someone else says, don’t let this deter your own process. Many people are so caught up in what others think of them that they lose sight of themselves. If this happens to you, regroup and remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Don’t let others dictate where you go next on your path.

Keep these tips in mind, and don’t let a bad experience coming out to someone hinder your overall journey. It happens to us all, and you’ll be stronger for the next person you come out to!

Leave me a comment and let me know what you’ve done if you’ve had a bad experience coming out to someone. I’d love to hear your advice!



9 thoughts on “How to bounce back after a bad experience coming out to someone

  1. Anonymous

    Excellent advice for anyone who shares their truth about anything and those listening to it, Andrea! The reaction is always about the person reacting. When I was first struggling with my new place in the world and felt a bit intimidated, I would visualize 5 random people I knew (or saw on the street). I would ask myself, “Which one of these people doesn’t deserve to be who they are and live, peacefully, as they please? Which one of these people does not serve to be happy?” The answer was invariably that they all deserved happiness. None was better than the other in the grand scheme. Then, I would replace one of those people with me. Now which one of these people does not deserve to be happy? The answer was the same. No one should be able to squash your truth. Stay strong and determined in it. It may grow or change but it belongs to you.

  2. Claire Brantley

    Now I’m starting to re-think every time I’ve had a friend come out to me … I hope I said the right things, I hope I was supportive and kind and not just surprised or self-absorbed. The person I aspire to be would be kind and loving, I hope I never let a friend down. I would never judge a friend, but I might be surprised if I was truly in the dark about the issue.

    1. Claire, I think that we all do the best we can when it comes to being supportive to our friends. Being mindful & receptive is always good! Also I think it’s always appropriate to ask anyone going through a difficult time, “What do you need from me? How can I help?” Being surprised is a normal human reaction! None of us are perfect, but if we respond with love, I think that goes a long way.

  3. Claire Brantley

    What a great post, A! Good advice for anyone trying to deliver some important news, honestly, but especially this sort of news. Love you!!!!

  4. Amy

    The worst reaction for me was a family member who is very religious told me I was evil and falling for wickedness. I had known her for most of my life so I wasn’t surprised by her reaction. And when it was over I actually felt relieved. That was really the worst anyone could do to me with words. And it didn’t hit me internally because it truly is her issue and not about me at all. I felt that truth immediately and it was actually a great personal experience. I know I am not evil or wicked nor is anyone I love. I was happy to have the religious opinion accounted for and I can move towards being more myself everyday without worry or care of censure. That’s their problem. And the more okay I am with myself…the more everyone else becomes okay with it. Thanks for posting…very important topic well said!

  5. I told the sister I was closest too that I am bisexual. I was expecting a negative response, and got it. She told me it was the devil and that I needed to “get right”. That hurt.
    I told my nephew (he’s 8 years younger than I am) I am bi, his response made me so grateful to him. He told me it didn’t matter and he still loved me just the same. I really needed that after my sister.
    I talked to another sister about being bi, she said still loved me. But then she kind of ruined that by saying you’re supposed to “hate the sin and love the sinner”. I told her it wasn’t a sin to be the way God made me to be.
    My husband is still processing the entire thing. We’ve been together for 21 years, and I kind of sprung this on him. He really doesn’t get that being bi means more than the fact that I like looking at pictures of women. At least he is trying to understand.
    My best friend is a bisexual man, and I have been so grateful for his support, and his help in helping me to understand things.
    Both my sisters are still talking to me, and haven’t rejected me. I haven’t spoken to my brothers. They’re both homophobic.
    I’m not going to tell my mother. She doesn’t need to know. I am married to a man, and not going to be involved with a female.
    I actually posted on Facebook about being bi. People think I did it for attention, but intention was to weed out the homophobic people. I just want them out of my life. The only comments I got were positive ones. If anyone had a problem with it, they kept it to themselves or just quietly left.

  6. jesssanson

    I just came out to my parents late last year and it’s been horrible ever since. Specifically with my mom. We used to have a great relationship, but now she’s going off the deep end and refusing to seek professional help to adjust to this news about her daughter being gay. It’s added a lot of stress to my life because I still love my mom very much, but I often feel like I have to estrange myself in order to stay sane and happy.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear this! It’s so heartbreaking when the people we love can’t deal with the truth of our lives. The only advice I can give to you is to keep the lines of communication open the best you can with your mom, and give her the time she needs to process this information. Remember that you’ve been dealing with this knowledge a lot longer than she has–she may just need time to sort it all out. That said, you do have to have strong boundaries for you own sanity, as you mentioned. I know it may feel like estrangement, but it’s really just giving your mom time to process the news & giving you the space you need when things get too intense. Hang in there and know that there are lots of us out there who understand what you’re going through! Above all else, take care of yourself and thanks for sharing your story here!

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